Inspire Theater schedules first event Dec. 27

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Workmen install signage Wednesday at the Inspire Theater.
Construction contractors lined up outside the Inspire Theater Wednesday.
Inspiration is coming: The Inspire Theater has scheduled its first event for Dec.27.

The long-ish-ly awaited Inspire Theater at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard has an opening date.

In the bygone days of a couple of years ago, there was a 7-11 at the downtown intersection of two of Las Vegas' celebrated urban avenues. Now there is, or very soon will be, the Inspire Theater, along with a rooftop bar and a much-anticipated (among downtownies) newstand. The project is a partnership of Jennifer and Michael Cornthwaite and Zappo's CEO Tony Hsieh.

Conceptual drawings came out last spring, and various dates for the opening of the 150-seat Inspire Theater and a bar have been floated by Hsieh-friendly media, including last summer and the fall of 2013. Now, a quartet of local writers are promoting an event at the theater Dec. 27, so that is a drop-dead date for the opening.

Jennifer Cornthwaite said the building should be ready for the event later this month.

"I don't know if we're calling it the hard opening or not," she said. "We were really saying the opening would be after the first of the year... I would say it (the Dec. 27 event) is a dress rehearsal."

Cornthwaite said the complete rehab of the property will surprise people; she said people will feel the same rush of successful design that people felt when they first glimpsed the larger cross-town project, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2012.

"Inspire, on its own scale, it feels like that," she said. "It really is a place that I feel is worthy of being this cornerpiece, a gateway, to Fremont East."

She acknowledged that there have been delays in design and construction. Initially, media reports suggested the theater would open last summer.

"There have been a lot of delays," Cornthwaite said. "It took a really long time for the design to come together and construction."

In part, the delay was due just to the volume of work going on Fremont Street, much of it, like the Container Park that opened just two weeks ago, involving the Cornthwaites and Hsieh's Downtown Project directly, she said.

"There's been a lot of work going on down here," she said. "If Inspire was the only work, we might have been talking about it in July. It's frustrating to talk about delays, but it's almost over."

CityLife went by the property at the busy intersection Wednesday and more than a dozen men, most in hardhats, were working on various parts of the interior and exterior. The steps on a front staircase had just been glued together, an elevator wasn't functioning, walls and floors and wiring were all works in progress. But Cornthwaite said the project has a city-issued temporary occupancy permit, so they are ready to go.

Cornthwaite said one important aspect of the project is that even when there is not a scheduled theater event, the rooftop bar and downstairs cafe and newsstand will still be open. Earlier this year, some local readers were polled on what kind of publications would be at the newsstand (hint: The New Yorker will finally be available to downtown readers). Also, the newsstand will offer books through a "crazy book machine," which Cornthwaite said would print and bind books on the spot.

Las Vegas-centric writers Geoff Carter, Gregory Crosby and Dayvid Figler, with special guest Dena Rash Guzman, are scheduled to present "true stories, poetry and fiction" Dec. 27 at 8 p.m. Donations at the event dubbed "Three Wise Guys-plus-One" will go to the Outside Las Vegas Foundation. Figler said Wednesday that the reading is an annual event that goes back to the 1990s, always at a different venue.

"No matter who's where, we sort of re-emerge to do a sort of holiday extravaganza that only we can pull off," Figler said. Last year's reading was at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on the Strip.

"It's exciting to be back downtown," Figler said. "It's great to be asked to be the inaugural. We've seen the architectural renderings of the place and it really looks amazing."

Cornthwaite said it is not clear if the newsstand and roof bar will be open on Dec. 27. The bar's opening may depend on the weather, she said.